Since the dawn of Christianity, artists have been fascinated and stirred by the figure of Christ. His likeness appears in frescoes on the walls of catacombs that date from Roman times; he is featured in the stained glass windows of Gothic churches; and he can be found in various forms in today’s pop culture. The Biblical Saviour is not a static, immaterial deity: Christ’s mortal birth, unusual life and dramatic death make him an accessible subject for religious and secular artists alike. Whether they show the spirituality of God Incarnate or the earthly characteristics of a flesh-and-blood man, artistic depictions of Christ are the most controversial, moving, or inspirational examples of religious art.
This richly illustrated book explores the various ways that Christ is rendered in art, from Giotto di Bondone’s Madonna Ognissanti and Fra Angelico’s paintings of the Crucifixion to the provocative portraits of Salvador Dalí. Author Ernest Renan guides the reader through the most iconic representations of Christ in art — tender or graphic, classical or bizarre, these images of the Messiah reveal the diverse roles of the Son of God in the social milieus and personal lives of the artists.
Ernest Renan (1823-1892) was a historian, religious scholar, and philosopher. In hopes of joining the priesthood, Renan attended an ecclesiastical seminary during his youth. His exposure to the humanistic study of historical linguistics at this school led him to question the traditional interpretation of the events portrayed in the Bible. Eventually leaving the Catholic church, but retaining his belief in Christianity, Renan pursued a historical reconstruction of the life of Jesus resulting in his controversial five-part series The History of the Origins of Christianity, which made him hugely influential in his time. While best known for his religious studies, Renan’s works on linguistics, nationhood, and politics are still widely quoted.
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